A key element of the EU’s Green Deal could be dropped, as leaked document points to climbdown on hazardous chemicals ban

Leaked documents suggest the European Commission is set to renege on its commitment to “ban the most harmful chemicals in consumer products, allowing their use only where essential” and bow to pressure from the chemical industry.

Thousands of hazardous substances were expected to be prohibited as part of Europe’s Green Deal, including so-called “forever chemicals” that build up in nature and humans over time.

Pesticide spray

However, one EU official told the Guardian, “We are being pushed to be less strict on industry all the time” in reference to the pressure being exerted by Europe’s chemical industry, as well as rightwing political parties.

“A leaked legislative document seen by the Guardian proposes three options that would restrict 1 per cent, 10 per cent or 50 per cent of products containing hazardous chemicals currently on the market,” the newspaper stated. “The EU typically selects the middle option.”

An anonymous EU official added: “The feeling in the commission is almost like it’s a given that we cannot create too much trouble for industry – irrespective of the public health benefits – and that companies suffer a lot from our regulations on chemicals, so we should try to make it easier on them.”

The leaked 77-page impact study is part of a revision of targets in the EU’s Reach regulation on chemicals law, dated 13 January 2023 and due to be launched by the end of the year.

The draft analysis estimated annual health savings of €11bn-€31bn from chemical bans as a result of reduced illness from cancer and obesity, while the cost to industry was estimated to be €0.9bn-€2.7bn a year.

With EU elections looming in spring 2024, campaigners were becoming concerned that European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen would seek to mollify her political base in Germany by showing leniency to an industry so important to the German economy.

In October, German giant BASF revealed it would scale back its operations in Europe permanently, citing rising energy costs and regulation concerns.